One faculty member tells a personal story of how philanthropy paints the picture of innovation
Joao de Quevedo, MD, PhD, sees beauty in his work, and his research and clinical roles as one color in the painting of a world-class, industry-leading academic institution that can help all patients restore their mental health.
Philanthropy, he said, is a primary color needed to create the next frontier of mental health care, as a place where patients — no matter how complex their disease — can live their happiest and best lives.
De Quevedo is a professor, clinician, and researcher within the Louis A. Faillace, MD, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, where he serves as professor and vice chair of faculty development and outreach. He also is both the director of the Center for Interventional Psychiatry Program and the Treatment-Resistant Depression Program, part of the Center of Excellence on Mood Disorders.
It’s not uncommon, he said, for patients to have tried 10 or more different treatments before being referred to the Treatment-Resistant Depression Clinic.
Treatment starts with reviewing the patient’s file, and checking to see if any options were overlooked, making adjustments, and then trying new therapies.
“One thing I say to my patients is, ‘Here, we never give up,’” he said. “There is no next level to refer patients to — we need to find ways to help them. We work with hope, and the only way to have hope is to have multiple plans — plans B, C, D, F.”
Philanthropy is the backdrop that allows for innovation, de Quevedo said. Philanthropic support at the UTHealth Houston Harris County Psychiatric Center and the Dunn Behavioral Sciences Center has funded research into using stem cells to treat bipolar depression, a clinical trial using deep brain stimulation for treatment-resistant depression, and more.
“Innovative ideas are not funded by federal agencies — they want low risk,” de Quevedo said. “Because of that, research needs philanthropy. You may have a great idea, but you need data to prove it might work before you can get federal funding. You can’t get the big money without having the pilot or prototype, and the only way to fund that is through philanthropy.”
De Quevedo has more than two decades of experience helping patients diagnosed with treatment-resistant depression, and he said he also gives financially to UTHealth Houston because he sees the impact his work has on the community he serves.
“It makes sense to me to give to things that are tangible, and I can see the tangible difference this university makes in people’s lives," de Quevedo said. "I love when patients improve. Some patients are depressed for decades and then in one way or another you find an adjustment — be it a medication or treatment — and the person is able to be fully functional.
“It’s really rewarding because it creates waves in the community. Each person who gets back on track means a family is back on track, a professional who is back to work, and it snowballs. We see our impact not only on the individual, but in the impact that individual will make in the community — it’s a beautiful thing to see.”
The university rests on three pillars: patient care, research, and education.
“We are exceptional at patient care, and we are outstanding at education, but we are still developing the research piece,” de Quevedo said “That’s why philanthropic funds are so important to us, so we can do innovative things and advance the health of the community we serve.”
The structure of UTHealth Houston is a work of art itself. At its heart are the people who come to the university to train and care for patients.
“It’s like being an artist, working on a masterpiece —but the painting is not ready,” De Quevedo said. “UTHealth Houston had a vision to build the largest academic psychiatric hospital in the country. We did that, and now the vision is to create a curriculum to train the next generation of mental health professionals to support the facility and address statewide gaps in care accessibility. There are always aspects to enhance or colors to add to the painting — it’ll never be done. What we are building here is unique, innovative, and beautiful. I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”
Support important work at UTHealth Houston by participating in Giving Day, Tuesday, April 4.
During the 5th annual UTHealth Houston Giving Day, you can support the Louis A. Faillace, MD, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and many other university initiatives by visiting givingday.uth.edu.